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Food-conditioned bears still active in Okanagan neighbourhoods: WildsafeBC

Bears typically start to slow down and move back to natural areas during this time
Bears are still active in West Kelowna. (Black Press Media file)

Now that it’s getting later in the fall season, bear activity is supposed to be slowing down.

But WildSafeBC Central Okanagan coordinator Meg Bjordal said bears are still roaming around and feeding in several West Kelowna neighbourhoods including Rose Valley, Shannon Lake, and Glenrosa, with Rose Valley with the most reports of bear sightings.

“We would normally expect bears to be slowing down quite a bit around this time,” she said.

“They’re probably back up in the natural area, preparing dens for the winter. But this late in the fall, when we do have bear activity in town, it often indicates that those bears are food conditioned.”

This is where things can get tricky, according to Bjordal.

When a bear is food-conditioned, it means it has found unnatural food sources like garbage and compost bins, bird feeders, as well as fruit trees in various neighbourhoods.

Generally during this time, she said either there are fewer food sources for the bears to access or they have increased their body fat enought to help them survive the winter. But if a bear is still able to access unnatural food sources, there’s no trigger for it to actually move on and into its den.

“It’s hard to tell what will happen to these bears, but what we would like to see is for people to mange and remove their attractants and that should result in the bears moving on,” said Bjordal.

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When bears come into neighbourhoods, there is a risk of human-wildlife conflict. But when they are active this late, the risk of conflict becomes prolonged, especially as days get shorter and Halloween gets closer where children and families will be out and about in the near-dark.

Bjordal said pumpkins in particular are attractants and her advice is to put them in your garage or somewhere secure after putting them out on display so they aren’t left unattended overnight outdoors. She added that disposing of pumpkins properly also helps.

“I’ve seen some community groups and businesses suggesting that people leave their pumpkin out or throw it in the woods for wildlife to eat,” she said.

“But I don’t suggest doing that because while the intention is coming from a good place, it can actually have negative consequences in terms of attracting animals towards where humans are.

“If you really want to help animals with your pumpkins, see if you can find a local farm or animal rescue that is accepting pumpkins as a food donation.”

The Regional District of Central Okanagan has suggested that property owners compost their pumpkins, which Bjordal said is also a good idea.

“But just be aware this can still attract wildlife, so you would need to keep your yard waste bin or compost bins secured until pickup day.”

If you see a bear in your neighbourhood, you can report it to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

Resources on wildlife behaviour, as well as wildlife alerts, are available here.

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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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